My mama works the day shift at the Welcome Restaurant, and that’s where I meet her on weekdays after school. Sometimes if Mama’s busy, I sit behind the counter or I even help collect the dishes from the booths.
It’s called the Welcome Restaurant, Mama says, because the owner wants folks to feel at home. He put a gigantic welcome mat in front of the entrance. And the name Welcome Restaurant flashes in bright lights on the roof.
Mama says that people come to the restaurant because the food is good, but I think people come here to decide. Just the other day I heard a girl there deciding to get married, and yesterday I heard someone there decide to move.
I like to watch the people while they sit and talk or think, and I always wonder where they’re from or where they’re going. I like to watch Mama, too, when she writes down all the orders. Sometimes we play a game about what each person wants to eat. As she passes me, Mama whispers what she thinks they’ll order, like “Scrambled eggs and toast,” or “Oh, he’s ‘fried chicken.’” And if she’s right, she’ll wink at me and cluck just like a hen, while I laugh so hard that I nearly slide off the stool!
What I like best is when Mama’s shift is over and we walk home together. Mama tells me stories about who she met that day, or she tells me a funny joke that she heard.
When we get home, Mama puts her feet up and empties her apron pockets. I help count the tips she received from work. I like to put the quarters, dimes, and nickels in tall silver stacks.
At bedtime, Mama tucks me in. Sometimes she’ll sing a song to me or read a storybook. When she says good night to me, I always have the feeling that she’s happy, even though she’s tired.
When I’m grown, I want to have a restaurant where people feel at home and where they’ll sit and talk or decide things. And I think I’ll call it Mama’s, because I know that she’ll be there, asking people where they’re from or where they’re going and making them feel welcome and happy.